Taking Calculated Risks in Therapy

Recently a patient showed me how and when to take a calculated risk during an individual therapy session (of course never ever do anything unethical or inappropriate or potentially damaging  — “first, do no harm”).

In this moment she led me out of my comfort zone and into new and important emotional territory for her.

Here’s what happened (I changed all names and details of the experience to ensure confidentiality):

She walked into our Salt Lake City based office and shared in detail a passage from a favorite book. She shared why she loved it. At that moment, I had a choice to make  — stay with this topic or move into usual “therapy talk”

My choices were:

1. Start the session with the usual questions like; How are you feeling? How was your week? What would you like to work on today?  — all very typical “therapist” questions — nothing wrong with these questions.


2. Follow her lead and ask her to talk more about the book, ask her to pull up the scene on her phone and read parts of it to me, question her about what the book tells her about her life and life in general, etc.

So, by taking the second option good things happened. Her talk about the book led us directly into key fears and upsets that she had never shared before. It led her to compare here emotional life with pains and joys to the characters in her book.

Note to self: pay attention to what the client says in first five minutes of session. What may seem like idle conversation often will be the key to finding the emotional center of the therapy session.

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